The steppes are what Mongolia is best known for. Endless expanses of grass cover much of eastern Mongolia, extending in a narrow band all the way to the west. Although the steppes are large and open, they are not empty; much of this area is grazed by livestock owned by nomadic herders. With a population of 30 million sheep, goats, cows and camels overgrazing threatens the natural environment in many areas.
In the central Mountain Forest Steppe region the Siberian forests (taiga) meet the central Asian steppe. Stands of Larch and Birch on northern slopes and grass-covered southern slopes are characteristic of this area.
Although there is not much water in large parts of the steppe, there are small wetlands and lakes throughout Mongolia. These attract large numbers of waterfowl, especially during the migration seasons. Mongolia is unique in that two major migratory bird flyways cross its territory.
These wild horses used to roam on Mongolia’s steppes, but disappeared from the wild in the early 20th century. Recently, several herds were successfully reintroduced into the wild from captivity. One of the herds is at Huustain Nuuru Park, just outside of Ulaanbaatar.
Mongolian gazelles in the eastern steppes undertake one of the world’s largest mammal migrations, only rivalled by the caribou in North America and the wildebeest in Africa. Many thousands of gazelles move across the wide open plains every year in search of food and water.